Something I don’t like is when uninformed people or people who don’t know what they are talking about go after something I really like. It kind of hits my rage-buttons in all the wrong ways. Especially when it is something that I love in the extreme. The Last of Us is one such thing. There was a post on Cracked.com where a woman made an argument against this game. The argument centered on a reason why she believed that video games are sexist. The character in question here was Ellie. For those who don’t know, I love this character. She is one of my favorite female protagonists of all time. She and Joel are an amazing duo that make the game’s emotional center and believability. And the authors of this article believe that she is a sexism problem because she has “daddy-issues.” Let the rage begin.
First, I will say that a paternal relationship does develop between these two. That’s true. I am not denying that for a second. However, their paternal relationship is NOT the focus of the game.
Ellie is immune to the cordycep infection that has decimated the human race. She found this out when her and someone she cared immensely for are bitten. The person she was with turned. She didn’t. That was the first on a laundry list of people who she feels are her responsibility, since people have a habit of either leaving her or dying. The only major exception to that rule is Joel. The post linked above talks about Joel like he is just a gruff manly-man who is all tough and infallible. Perhaps the authors of the article didn’t realize that he had been a single father who had had a daughter and lost her due to a jackass soldier who was ordered to kill them in order to keep the quarantine protocols in effect. I guess they were unaware that the loss of her and the twenty years afterwards for his heart to harden turned him into a much colder man. Yes, the authors of that article didn’t seem to know a lot of things about the game they were criticizing.
But back to Ellie, they make a point about how Ellie is strong, capable and seems to be in control. The scene that they reference in-particular is the one in the restaurant, after she escapes captivity by the bandit leader. To put this in context, this is a deranged lunatic who has been trying to bond with her, to a point where it gets kind of creepy. After an incident at the university where they believed the Fireflies to be, Joel is critically injured and Ellie believes him to be dead by this point. However, when she doesn’t fall for that, the man shows his true deranged colors. She bites him and shows him her bite, making him believe that he is now infected. The man starts losing his mind more and more. It all culminates in a restaurant at the center of their camp. Ellie gets inside, only to be cornered by him. His weapon is depleted and he only has his machete. Ellie only has her knife. The two get into a game of cat-and-mouse through the restaurant, with Ellie stabbing the man with her knife over and over.
Eventually, he gets ahold of her and they grappled, both falling unconscious. When they wake up, Ellie sees his fallen machete and starts crawling toward it. The whole time, the man is beating her, asking her why she keeps fighting. It is an intense moment where you see what she fights for. The man rolls her over and start choking her, but she finally grabs on to his machete. The girl slashes his throat, which causes him to fall over. She gets up and starts turning his head into mince-meat, screaming in rage and pain, over and over and over again. It stops when Joel grabs hold of her and pulls her into his arms. At first, she doesn’t know it’s him and tries to shake him off. Upon looking into his eyes and seeing who it is, her rage breaks down and she starts to cry. It is a powerful scene where both of them accept how much they care for one-another, with words-unknown spoken between them, like a promise.
The article contends that this scene is sexist because it has Ellie being all strong, until the man comes in and she becomes a weepy little woman. The people who wrote that clearly didn’t understand what made the scene so powerful. Ellie believed Joel was dead. She believed that everything that mattered to her and the only person she had was gone. Her rage was exploding at the person she was hacking and seeing Joel again broke that. Both of them found something in that moment.
Here’s the real truth about The Last of Us. These two character’s relationship is not about a girl with “daddy issues.” Ellie helps Joel find his humanity. He lost it for so many years, and now has found it again. Joel, on the other hand, is helping Ellie to find a reason to keep living, even with all the weight she has on her shoulders.
If you are going to say that all the dynamic between these two is is Joel being the strong man and Ellie being the weak little girl, then riddle me this – what about the scene at the Hospital? Joel decides to throw it all away. He learns that to make a cure from Ellie, they have to kill her. This could save humanity, but without a second thought, Joel decides – fuck it. He’s going to save this one life, because that is all that matters to him in the entire world. How is that just some cliche daddy-character archetype? Sure, he sees her as his surrogate daughter, but she is more than that. He sees her as his connection to the human condition, and one worth fighting for.
In closing, don’t make fun of something that you CLEARLY don’t understanding the first thing about. You could trying playing the game, and not judging things at face value. Just sayin’.
Until next time, a quote,
“After all this, after everything I’ve done…it can’t be for nothing.” -Ellie, The Last of Us